Naked Yoga: Strip Down and Get on the Mat

Published in YogaCity NYC Nov 2013

Nudity is one of those rarely discussed topics. It remains covered, hidden under the societal blanket of inappropriate expression reserved solely for private experiences.  And yet why is it off-putting to some in this progressive twenty-first century?

Even in all-accepting yoga, nudity can cause quite the concern, and yet shouldn’t it be the opposite? Take the recent comments of Lululemon’s founder, Chip Wilson, about women’s bodies “not fitting” the clothes.” Besides being ridiculous, Wilson unknowingly reveals  an alternative to striving for the “thigh gap” that enables a person to squeeze themselves into the sausage casings that are yoga pants – take them off.      

Naked yoga is not a new concept. It is practiced in India by a spiritual group called the Naga Sadhus who see it as a reflection of their rejection of all material possessions.  Still there is a heavy skepticism that surrounds the practice of naked yoga today, and it is often criticized as a means to provide erotic and sexual experiences under the guise of self-expression

Luckily for this inquisitor, clad only in curiosity (writing this in the buff to further advocate the au natural cause), there are a handful of yoga teachers around the city who are upending established social propriety by offering spaces for students to explore their birthday-suit-yoga-practices. More than that, there are practitioners who openly believe strongly in naked yoga’s unique benefits, those that go beyond what can be gained in stretch pants and a tank top.

As Joschi Schwarz a senior teacher at Le Male Yoga, the premier naked yoga studio in Chelsea offering mens-only class, said  “Letting go of the clothed self is a metaphor for the more challenging work of removing the intangible costumes of the ego, which conceals the true self.” A student cannot hide behind anything when such exposure occurs. It is a catalyst for really facing whatever it is that is going on in a person’s life, he added.

For Cindee Rifkin, a devout yogi who offers co-ed naked yoga classes to pre-screened students, the impact that the practice can have on a person’s day to day life is worth  trying it at least once. In fact, those who are most resistant to the idea often benefit the most. “There are people who attend that are dealing with body issues, shyness, and trauma.”

Isis Phoenix, considered by many to be a foundational and inspirational naked yoga teacher, articulates the connection between naked yoga and self-empowerment in a visually gripping way “Naked yoga reduces the amount of barriers and armoring that we have not only against the world but those barriers and boundaries that we have to our self.”

The word “healing” arose in conversation with many of the teachers in the discussion. Schwarz says, “the experience of trust and community that exists in a group of naked people can be deeply healing.”

Beth Nolan, founder of BNaked Yoga, has had only positive responses from even the most adamantly opposed to the practice. Once she is able to convince students to try it, the response is a positive one. “The feedback is usually why did I wait so long to try this?’”

For Rifkin and Phoenix, the nurturing and healing of their own nude experiences on the mat are what inspired them to dedicate themselves to offering it to others.  “I used to have a distorted image of myself and I resented the body I lived in. To reconnect with my body I learned daily practices of self-care revolving around acceptance, self-love, and compassion.” Supported by Phoenix, I came to this practice because I found healing and self acceptance in it. My intention as a teacher is that those who practice it benefit in the same way,” explains Rifkin.

She believes deeply in the remedial effects of the practice, particularly for those dealing with self-consciousness. “In the group setting you realize that everyone has their own issues, and really, no one is staring, nor caring about yours. What a relief that can be! We feel and examine our habitual patterns while in poses, pranayama and meditation. Within one to five minutes [of a class] there is a shift in mind and body…Everyone is fascinated by how differently and how much better they feel.”

There is no doubt that negative body image and unrealistic physical standards have produced an epidemic of self-loathing among women and men, particularly those that participate in the culture of New York City. Perhaps, as Rifkin suggests an antidote to this body distortion already exists, and it lays naked and waiting on a yoga mat.

Despite all the positives of the practice, one concern that surrounds naked yoga is the sexual connotation and the implications of it. Jess Gronholm, co-founder of online yoga resource Dirty Yoga, is skeptical of alternative agendas of those that may be selling sex for profit in the form of yoga. As he notes, “ There do seem to be several naked yoga classes, claiming to help the self-conscious, that are offered at midnight on a Saturday night, and that can’t help but make you wonder.”

Is it possible for a teacher to create an environment for students that is void of sexual implications? For Nolan, the answer is – why would we ever want to? As a teacher, Nolan makes space for sexuality in the tantric yoga classes she offers, aimed to promote sexual healing and self-empowerment.  “How can we deny we’re sexual beings?. It’s what makes us human. We as a culture have so much shame and judgment around sexuality. We can sell beer, cigarettes even pharmaceuticals in the name of sex but we can’t educate and teach people about sacred sexuality without judgement.”

Whether or not sexuality is brought into the picture seems to be a personal preference of the teacher. However, all the teachers with whom I spoke agreed that a pre-screening process is an important part of offering classes, particularly in an urban environment.

Another question that arises is whether or not to separate classes by gender.  Though Le Male is exclusively for men, some teachers provide co-ed experiences and do not see a need to separate.  As Rifkin advocates, “co-ed integration is key in total healing and freedom…there is such strength born of this vulnerability, and you can only know this joy and relief when you choose to experience it.”

When Phoenix wanted to open the doors for women to practice naked yoga, she had to create a class herself, as the classes offered in NYC were male-only. Though she understands that initially opposite sexes can feel trepidation when considering mixed-gendered classes, she spoke from her years of experience about the humbling power of a co-ed experience. “We come to discover that we are simply humans who have bodies male or female and then beyond that we are simply human.”

There exists some dispute as to whether or not yoga teachers require additional training to successfully guide nude classes. Schwarz and Nolan also agree that the asana’s are the same, and so no additional standardized training should be required, only an expected level of sensitivity.

Rifkin however believes there should be standardized training for teachers who wish to offer naked yoga due to the need for teachers to respect students vulnerability, and she is composing her own 50 page manual of curated training tips, advice, guiding principles, and insights.

Phoenix is also a proponent of specialized training, “I hope in the future there can be a naked certification, like one gets certified in prenatal or kids yoga. Some background in counseling or psychotherapy would be useful — not that an instructor becomes a therapist but there is a certain about of space holding that stretched beyond normal yoga classes and yoga teacher responsibilities.”

At the end of it all, whether a skeptic or not, the question becomes why would a student chose to strip down? The answer might simply be, why not? Why not see if the benefits claimed from the mentioned teachers resonate
Take it from me, an admittedly skeptical yogi. In preparation for this piece, I attended a co-ed naked yoga class. Walking into a room filled with 17 men and only two other women was terrifying at first, but my curiosity got the best of me and I stripped down and stayed. And I am very glad I did.

When stripped down to your most vulnerable state, pinching and scrutinizing becomes irrelevant, along with clothing personal stories of inadequacy fall away. Concern with shape gives away to meditative movement and expression. Yoga nurtures the scars created by consistent self-flagellation, spurned on by heckling comparison. I say, give it a try. You have nothing to lose but the discomfort of spandex.

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From Asana to App

Published in YogaCity NYC September 2013

On the surface yoga and modern technology seem paradoxical. An ancient Eastern practice that preaches being fully present in the moment — drawing awareness to the subtleties of breath and body movement — opposes the experience of the virtual world that requires instantaneous attention. And yet, visionaries are constantly looking for ways to take advantage of the accessibility and popularity of modern tools in order to share information about healthy living with a broader community at much quicker speeds.

Lara Land, owner of Land Yoga in Harlem and founder of the children’s yoga brand Chloe the Yogi, has found a way to successfully capitalize on the rapidly evolving and increasingly popular realm of iPhones, iPads, and Apps, bringing her knowledge and experience  as a yoga teacher into the laps of children and around the world.

Meet Chloe the Yogi: The Amusement Park, the first of five editions of Land’s interactive app. Designed for the iPad, it consists of a twenty page narrative that follows a little yogini named Chloe on an adventure through a theme park, mixing asana with entertainment. Each page is equipped with an interactive feature that gives instructions on how to do the same yoga poses as Chloe, so that readers can combine moving and breathing with learning.

Land’s app aims to make yoga easily accessible to her tech-savvy demographic of pint-size yogis in training, ranging from 4-7 years old. For example, chair pose, is playfully transformed into Chloe’s ferris wheel pose and upward plank pose.

One of the exciting parts of the Chloe the Yogi app is its adaptability to school settings. Many elementary schools are utilizing iPads and Smart Boards in the classrooms, replacing the classic spiral bound lesson planners and composition notebooks.  When teachers want to physically engage their students, giving them a break from their desks, they can turn to the Chloe the Yogi and offer a read aloud alongside a brief yoga class. “Kids need ways to release energy throughout the day,” says Land, “So many schools are using smart technology, and so our app steps in and helps to channel that energy in a fun and beneficial way.”

Parents are encouraged to join their children when using the app at home, unlike many of the popular apps that are intended for an individual user. “A lot of parents were asking me what goes on in a child’s yoga classes and wanted to be a part of that experience,” said Land about her motivation. “Now they can participate with their children and gain a better understanding of the benefits of yoga for their kids.”

Land’s dream of creating a way to bring yoga classes for kids into the mainstream started years before the app was a possibility. She had conceived of the idea for widely distributable electronic kids yoga books alongside of her Chloe the Yogi Brand, but needed technology to catch up to her vision. “I wrote the story about three years ago but the project had to go on the back burner. The technology wasn’t there for what I wanted to do.”

Besides creating the app, Land has dedicated much of her time and energy to creating and continually developing her brand. “Chloe the Yogi is Lara’s baby,” as business partner and friend Nikoa Evans-Hendricks acknowledged at the recent launch of the app. “She has been carrying this idea around in her heart for a long while, and now it is finally here. It’s a big step and we expect big things to come, and are all so happy to be along for the ride.”  Once the app technology had sprung into the mainstream, Lara gathered together programmers and front end developers to help her make it a reality. When asked if the process of Apple approved was daunting or cumbersome, Lara replied that she is grateful to her tech team for helping make the in-betweens of conception to product as smooth as they could be. “The app was rejected once due to lack of screen shots, but we quickly fixed it, sent it back, and it was instantly approved [by Apple]. I would say there would have been much more trouble had we not had someone [on our team] who really understood Apple technology.”

Chloe the Yogi part of is Land’s line of children’s yoga classes. She offers her vast experience teaching kids yoga to schools around New York City, and offers private classes, birthday parties, and workshops. To learn about Chloe the Yogi events, click here.

Land hopes to keep updating the app with more features, including adding more original music.  Like Chloe, Land’s followers are excited to see where she takes them on her next yoga adventure.

 

What the heck is Vedic Astrology?

Published by YogaCity NYC September 2013

“I see from your chart that you are an Aquarius with a moon in Cancer.”

“What?”

This opening statement from my first astrological reading from renown Vedic astrologer Alan Annand made me a little skepticism. An Aquarius? According to every horoscope I had ever read, I am an Aries true and true.

But before going to the reading, I had done my google research on Alan and he had impressive creds:a physicist turned successful writer and astrologer, accredited by both the British Faculty of Astrological Studies as well as the American College of Vedic Astrologers. He has been conducting consultations for over thirty years, has written numerous articles about the subject and published multiple novels. Thus despite my initial uneasiness, I knew that Alan was a professional and so I tried to hold back judgment until I knew more.

Alan explained that Vedic Astrology, or Jyotish as it is historically referred to, differs from Western astrology in a myriad of ways, and it is considered to be the source from which popular western astrology arose. Jyotish uses the sidereal zodiac, or the stars, to determine what the position of a planet means in relation to a person’s birthday whereas western astrology uses the tropical zodiac which is based on the sun. So, five times out of six there will be a difference between the reading of a western astrologer and a Jyotish astrologer. The latter, Alan assured me, has more tools in his arsenal, an older and more complex tradition, and therefore can conduct a reading that produces top quality, applicable results.

Jyotish focuses on the moon and the sun and the visible planets — Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn – and each of these has its own set of characteristics and associations. Though all of them are considered during a reading, it is the Moon that bares the greatest importance, as it is the stellar body that moves the fastest.

The charts Alan and other Jyotishis use in their readings are called harmonic or divisional charts, and known as amshas or vargas in Sankskrit. “The simplest way to characterize them is to say they’re like musical harmonics, fractals, or holograms, wherein each sub-division contains a relation to the whole,” explained Alan.  He added that the charts themselves can get very complicated and reveal a deep level of a person’s subconscious.

These readings also differ from western readings in that the latter places a heavy emphasis on the psychological consequences and meaning of the birth chart, often times projecting states of mind and serving first and foremost as a tool to self-motivate. “[Western astrology] assumes anyone with adequate effort can make the best of a bad situation….[Jyotish] recognizes that karma comes in three forms — fixed, unfixed, and mixed — and that some people are inherently lucky or unlucky no matter what they do while others are capable of tipping the scales in the direction of their efforts” wrote Alan recently.

What is perhaps most interesting about Vedic Astrology is the dueling nature of the planets. For example, in my birth chart both Saturn and Mars have very strong presences. For me, Saturn’s position lends to the characteristics of organization, a knack for planning, and overall caution. However, at the same time Mars’s presence suggests that I am inclined to be a risk taker, a leader, with heightened ambition and a desire to get things done quickly. The strength of the two planets lends to an internal tug of war. My Jyotish reading illuminated a truth that I experience daily: I am simultaneously inclined to hold Warrior 2 until my legs quake, and surrender into child’s pose immediately, both on and off the mat.

Jyotish also addresses a person’s dharma and what careers a person would excel at. This is one of the biggest draws for many: the desire to be pointed in a direction and professional choices validated by the stars. When asked the ways in which a Jyotishi determines a person’s calling in life, Alan explained that it was about “finding a theme, like the grain in a good piece of wood…we look for a combination of planetary influence that act like a compass saying, ‘go this way because it is the right thing for you to do’.” For me, I would do best in a field where I can use my aptitude for personal relationships combined with my creativity. Alan suggested a career in public relations or communications would yield professional success.  Well, I am a writer and so it was nice to hear that.

It was during this portion of the reading that the “houses”, the divisions relating to different aspects of one’s life, came into play. Like the planets, each of the 12 houses has a capacity to be strong, weak or ordinary, and each has a different impact on an individual’s personal characteristics.  Each person’s combination will be unique to them, and it is possible over multiple readings to delve very deep into the subdivisions of the charts in order to achieve higher specificity. In some cases, Alan will bring in palmistry to his readings, asking clients who cannot meet in person to send them pictures of their hands.

Though an initial skeptic, the reading proved an educational experience, and by the end Alan took on the role of supportive life coach, offering advice on how to achieve balance and personal fulfillment based on my chart. He recommends that every person undergo a Vedic reading, and parents should obtain an “astrological profile” of their child at age fourteen, in order to be able to more successfully guide and support them.

For yogis especially, undergoing a reading can prove valuable. “ Vedic Astrology addresses all four needs of life: Artha, Karma, Dharma and Moksha…More specifically for people in a spiritual practice, Jyotish can comment on various issues that arise in our practice,” said Alan.

I realized that consulting a talented Jyotishi such as Alan is worth the investment. If nothing else it will give you a reason to be exactly who you are, as it is written in the stars.

For more information about Alan Annand and to set up a consultation, click here.
Alan has written eight novels and published mutliple articles on many different spirituality and wellness topics. To view some of his work and learn more about his life as a writer,  click here.

 

Sip Around At These Cool Spots Fresh Pressed, Fun And Creative Juiceries

Published in YogaCity NYC August 2013

Best Place For Their Mix of Juices: Liquiteria

Best Place To Go When You Need To Feel Like Part Of The Family:Salud

Best Because the Iconic Melvin Major Squeezes Here – Need We Say More? Melvin’s Juice Box

Best Unique Ingredient Combinations: The Butcher’s Daughter

Best Drink Name: The Squeeze’s “I Have a Heart On”

Best Thirst-Quencher: One Lucky Duck’s “Blue Grape”

Best Green Juice: Tiny Empire’s #4 

Best Place To Go On A Budget: Juice Hugger

Best Place To Meet Someone Standing In Line: Punchline 

The recent juice boom has sent health-lovers into the streets searching for the perfect balance of taste and phytonutrients found in cold-pressed super-foods. Though there is no denying that the big names like Organic Avenue and Juice Press offer dependable products, it is worth the time to sip around some of the smaller businesses because they are more creative, definitely more idiosyncratic and usually care more about mixing up the perfect drink more than the chains.

To make it easier, YogaCity NYC has gotten the scoop on our favorite indie squeezes.
The East Village’s Liquiteria pioneered cold-pressed juice in NYC back in 1996 — long before the Vitamix was around. They often make the list of best juiceries in America because of their incredible menu – 20 different juices often made of up more than 25 ingrediants that are all yummy.  The staff is friendly and if you’re looking for a cleanse, they’ve got coaches to help you through.  If you’re lucky, you might run into hunky Daniel Craig picking up his squeeze.  The best time to go is mid-day, because the line in the morning is known to wrap around the corner.

Further downtown in Soho, there are a few stellar places to pop in to sip on something flavorful.
Family owned and operated Salud’s  newly opened location on Thompson Street is perfect for those days you need a little spicing up. Arakaren Gonzalez, one of three family owners of the business says, “we are very passionate about organic and healthy food, and we all grew up in Soho so we love this community.” Originally based in Brooklyn, this location stays true to its promise to offer organic ingredients, some of which are imported from Mexico such as their alfalfa mint and aloe vera. ”Our mission is to put a healthy spin on traditional Mexican American food.”

Around the corner is another cultural gem, Melvin’s Juice Box, the colorful offspring of Miss Lily’s Caribbean hot spot next door. This cultural social club is a great place to go if you have the time to sit and admire the eclectic vibe inside. Though a part of Miss Lily’s, Melvin’s Juice Box was started by Melvin Major jr., a juicing icon known for the delicious bevs he’s served for over 20 years in Greenwich Village. If your lucky you can catch Melvin mingling among the customers like an old friend. Another perk? Some of the proceeds go to the Rockhouse Foundation, which supports education in Jamaica. Try “The Real V-8,” a shmorgasburg of vegetables — 11 to be exact — to get all your servings of vegetables in one 12 oz cup.

South is The Butcher’s Daughter, a new high-end vegan establishment on Kenmare street. Owner Heather Tierney is hoping to change the way we drink juice and was inspired by her Chinatown mixology bar, Apotheke to make creative cold-pressed juices a staple part of The Butcher’s Daughter menu. Said Tierney, “ I noticed a void in the juice market: All of the juices seemed the same—flat, boring and monotone. No one was utilizing exotic produce and herbs.” And the juices certainly are unique. “Water Flower” combines ingredients like fennel, cactus, lavender and watermelon among others. After a yoga class, Tierney suggests picking up “Hangover Killer” with coconut to replenish and primrose oil to restore. Celebrity regulars: Justin Timberlake and Bjork.

For the juice-fiend with no time to spare, the best bet is stopping by the mobile juicery, The Squeeze, the first cold-pressed juice truck in Manhattan. Started and based in Brooklyn by former model and lifetime vegan Karliin Brooks, this truck parks outside 17th street and Union Square West and sells cleverly named organic juices such as Two Hearts Beet as One and The Jeans I Wore in High School. “Our most popular juice is our ‘Stand and Deliver,’ our green juice. We are almost always out by 5 pm. People are all about green juice,” says Paul Gunsberg, the musician/juice aficionado who can be found manning the truck, offering recommendations and a smile to bustling commuters.

Just up the street, is a small vegan boutique that sells delectable desserts alongside their juices, including chocolate moon pies and cashew ice cream. One Lucky Duck is the trendier younger sibling of vegan-elite Pure Food & Wine, located around the corner. What the space lacks in size – it’s tiny – they make up for in  quality. Warning: it will be hard to ignore all of the delicious-looking desserts pleading with you from behind the counter.

It’d be shameful to forget to look across the pond at Brooklyn’s scene, the borough that is quickly becoming a hub for interesting small foodie businesses. Tiny Empire on North 6th street is new to the scene, having opened its doors in September 2012, and bringing fresh, unpasturized, cold-pressed juices and raw ready-meals to Williamsburg. Like the name suggests, “we believe less is more — the less we do to our food the more we get out of it…One thing I think is sometimes forgotten about juicing is that juice should taste really really good. It is easy to create recipes that are full of health and taste delicious,” says founder Anthony Spadaro who created his juice recipes through trial and error in his own kitchen.

Downtown Brooklyn is home to homeopathic-inspired Punchline Juice Bar, which offers juices that promise everything from “Constipation Relief” to “Satin Skin” to a “Horse Tonic.” If you are looking for a little libido boost, spend the extra few dollars on an “Armageddon,” one of Punchline’s most popular drinks which contains the aphrodisiac bois bande, a Caribbean tree bark, and ginseng for energy.

If the lines at Punchline are too long, Juice Hugger is another Crown Heights favorite located on Rogers Ave. Kelly Keelo and Carl or “Crush” Foster as he is fondly referred, are dedicated to flavorful juices that are healthy and affordable.  Owner Keelo recommends the Cucumber Glo for a summertime refresher “since it cools you from the inside out. Juice Hugger is a company that was born “organically” after Foster used juicing to help him shed 58 pounds and wanted to help friends do the same.

The juice curious definitely have options. Though the prices for a glass of liquidized fruit and vegetables seems high, it makes sense when considering that it takes almost five pounds of produce per one 12 oz bottle. That is a whole lot of goodness happening there.

Event Coverage: The Gods of Wall Street

The Gods of Wall Street Battle for Pediatric Cancer Research 

This past weekend over 85 of the most fit and athletic men and women working on Wall Street gathered together to compete in the fifth annual  RBC Decathlon at Columbia’s Wien Stadium in the Bronx. The much anticipated event challenges strength, stealth, and stamina of the financial industry’s athletic elite, while raising money for pediatric cancer research. As a result of the sweat and spirit of the competitors, the sponsors, and generous donors, $1.25 million was donated last Sunday to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Participants ranged from college-aged to early sixties, and were spread out across many different financial services companies throughout New York and Boston. Investors and traders from the likes of Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Staley competed next to athletes from smaller firms such as Capital Dynamics and Trafalet & Co, battling  through six hours of events which included sprints, pull-ups, dips, bench pressing, vertical jumping, rowing, an agility test, football throwing and a grueling 800 meter dash to finish out the day.

Joining the competition this year was Olympic gold-medalist Dan O’Brien, who was challenged to raise $100,000 by completing 16 pull-ups during the event. The crowd cheered as O’Brien surpassed his mark, the 47 year old athlete proving that age is linked to motivation.

Alongside O’Brien were some other top-notch athletes who came with NFL training experience including Jake Stoller of Barclays (Pittsburgh Steelers), Tom McCarthy of Morgan Staley  (Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars), Collin Zych of Cogent Partners (Dallas Cowboys) and Mark Rubin of Barclays (St. Louis Rams) It was Rubin who walked away with the title of Best Male Athlete on Wall street, sharing the spotlight with Evelyn Konrad of Standard and Poor who was crowned the first ever Best Female Athlete award.

There was no short supply of talent, athleticism, and determination. What was most surprising was the  strong sense of camaraderie that echoed across the field and mixed among the opponents. “What impressed me the most was the caliber of competitors here today,” said Max Osbon, 25, a partner at Boston based  index-only investment boutique firm  Osbon Capital, “Everyone here has trained hard to get here, and yet we’re all just out here having a good time together and hoping to raise some money.” This was Osbon’s second Decathlon, and this year he was joined by his father and colleague John Osbon, who trained alongside his son to prepare for the event.

The winners of each event were honored at the end by an awards ceremony that included distribution of trophies and a years worth of bragging rights. Each of the other competitors was given something even more valuable: motivation to start training for next year.

Also impressive were the spectators who trekked from across Manhattan and Brooklyn to fill the stadium with cheers of encouragement, growing only louder as the rain slicked the track right before the 800m run, the final event to seal the day. The fans were encouraged throughout the day to place charity bets on the performances of the athletes.

Kirsten Doody, a Texas native who showed her support by dancing in the stands with enthusiastic friends, commented on an alternative reason to attend the event. “It’s amazing to see all of these fit and buff people duke it out. I don’t understand why more single women aren’t here today, it’s the perfect place to shop for a boyfriend.”

 

There you have it, an event worth marking your calendar for in 2014. Consider joining the ranks of Wall Street elite who will working hard to improve their personal scores as well as their charitable contributions. If competing in the event does not sound appealing, perhaps consider attending anyway to support the athletes, make a donation, sit back, and enjoy the view.

Basking in Meditation

Published July 2013 in The Culture-ist.

Developing a simple and quick meditation practice can have powerful benefits on the mind, body, and soul. Often however, the biggest deterrent to practicing meditation is the belief that a large amount of time must be dedicated to the discipline. There is simply not enough time to devote to a meditation practice when the to-do list is never ending. Yet on the contrary, not much time is needed at all. There are many ways to incorporate meditation into your day without carving out an hour to sit in silence.

One of the best ways to meditate is to go outside and immerse yourself in nature. This can be anything from a walk on the beach to a hike through the woods, to simply sitting down in a park.

Make a commitment to do something beneficial for yourself by taking the time to appreciate the outdoors. Follow this short meditation below to reconnect with your inner light and cultivate gratitude for all the natural wonders around you.

MEDITATION IN A MOMENT

In a comfortable seated position, either legs crossed in Sukhasana (easy pose) or sitting on top of the feet with legs folded beneath you in Vidrasana (diamond pose), place the hands on the lap, palms face down if you would like to feel more grounded, or face up if you would like more energy. Close the eyes.

Begin to bring your awareness to your breath. Imagine a root extending from the bottom of your spine deep down into the earth beneath you. Now imagine your spine extending long up through the crown of the head into the sky. You are at once innately connected to earth yet limitless in reach and potential.

Take a deep inhale and imagine the breath starting from the root and then traveling up the spine out into the sky. Exhale and allow the breath to wash down the spine beginning from the crown of the head and continuing down into the ground. Continue this visualization, bringing attention back to the spine anytime the mind begins to wander. The breathe is pulled up from the ground on the inhale, filling the back body, and then pushed back down the spine, releasing any tension and stress as it exits the body.

Continue to breathe like this for ten breaths.

Return to a normal, soft breath. Now bring awareness to the skin— your first line of physical connection with the world around you. Bring your attention to the skin on your face. Relax and soften the jaw and forehead, two areas that tend to hold tension. Tune in to the sensation of the sun warming the hands and face. Imagine the warm white light first washing the hands, traveling up to the face, and then wrapping around the entire body as if you were being bathed in a blanket of warm white light. This is the light that is within you, always. Take a deep breath in, pausing at the top of the inhale, for five seconds to let the light fill up the inside and pour over the outside of the body. Exhale all the air out of the lungs slowly.

Continue to breathe like this for ten breathes, each time holding the breath at the top of the inhale for five seconds. Allow the light from the sun to flow seamlessly in and out of the body, mixing with your own internal light.

After your ten breaths return to a soft, normal breath. Open up the eyes, smile, notice how you feel, and thank yourself for taking time to connect with nature and with yourself.

Try this mediation three times a week for a month, and notice if you can detect any subtle shifts or differences in how you feel at the end of the four weeks.

By beginning to form a meditation practice, you are cultivating a safe space to go to; a positive energy to simultaneously lift you up and ground you down; and a means of opening the mind and expanding the heart, inevitably leading to a daily experience that is balanced, whole, and most importantly at ease.

Take this summer as an open invitation to step outside, breathe deeply, and feel rejuvenated.

Event Coverage

Published in The Culture-ist  June 2013.

Claudia Chan hosts a lifestyle event that celebrates women and explains how and why they can rule the world.

Stepping through the door on the second floor of 82 Mercer St in SoHo, New York City, it was obvious that something big was happening — and it was wearing lipstick and stilettos. The second annual SHE (She Helps Empower ) Summit Conference had drawn together women of all ages from all over the city to engage in two full days of leadership and lifestyle workshops.

The event was the brainchild of Claudia Chan, a mover and shaker in the women’s leadership sphere who started her own company, Claudia Chan, Inc with the mission of connecting women to one another and inspiring them to live with passion and purpose. Claudia Chan Inc provides an online resource for women to find professional and lifestyle advice.

Prior to becoming a brand of her own, Chan was the CEO of Shecky’s, a company that organizes premier social events for women in New York City, for over a decade.

“There’s no denying it, there is a revolution happening for women,” began Chan as she welcomed the 200+ women in attendance. Petite in stature, but largely charismatic , Chan went on to speak about her mission to connect women with one another and share the success stories of today’s change makers.

The two-day networking event featured 15 panels made up of executives and women leaders from various fields and industries. Keynote speakers included CCO of BCBGMAXAZRIA Lubov Azria; Dress for Successs CEO Joi Gordon; best-selling author and life coach Gabrielle Bernstein; VP of Pepsi Co Dondeena Bradley; and NYC Public Advocate candidate and founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani.

The discussions ranged from health and wellness, to motherhood, to navigating the corporate sector. Manisha Thakor, Founder and CEO of Moneyzen Wealth Management offered practical investing advice for long-term money management and Maz Kessler, Founder and Creative Director of Catapult advised the audience to invest in their personal wellbeing by laughing as much as possible.

This balance of corporate concepts and light-heartedness is what set SHE apart from other women’s conferences and events. In between the discussions, as the audience tweeted the quote-worthy tips of the panelists, Claudia would signal dance breaks and small acts of play, which encouraged members of the audience to interact with one another. At the end of each day, the music was again turned up loud and guests gathered to cheers each over cocktails in the “Marketplace”, the sponsorship area that offered back massages, makeovers, and samples of artisan treats.

Overall, the SHE Summit was a huge success for all involved. The goal is to bring the event onto a national and eventually international scale, connecting women across the globe.

“I have never been more proud to be a woman,” said Gabrielle Lester-Coll, a twenty-three-year-old Brooklynite who works for SakaraLife, an organic meal delivery service based in Manhattan. “Every woman here is here to meet other amazing women. We’re all supporting each other.”

Author and inspirational speaker Agapi Stassinopoulous echoed this sentiment when she wrapped up the first day with the wise words, We women are a tribe. We are amazing just the way we are. Let’s not be go-getters. Let’s be go-givers.”

Clearly Claudia Chan and her team at Claudia Chan, Inc have found a way to be go-givers, creating a space for women to connect and collaborate.

As I walked out of the event at its close, I overheard a woman by the registration desk ask, “When can I buy my ticket for SHE Summit 2014?”

It appears that the revolution is already here.